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Iowa Eyes Pilot Program for Extended Learning Time

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By guest blogger Alyssa Morones

As state lawmakers and Republican Gov. Terry Branstad develop a new budget, one item up for consideration is the creation of a $1 million pilot program to extend learning time at schools, reports the Des Moines Register.

Officials from the Iowa Department of Education submitted their recommendations on this and other issues concerning the state budget to Gov. Branstad in November. According to state officials, the extra learning time would be intended to improve graduation rates and alleviate students' academic struggles, many of which take root while students are in earlier grades, reports the Register.

This is following legislation enacted in May 2013 that included a mandate that the Iowa Department of Education develop recommendations for an extended learning pilot program. 

A report released in December, commissioned by the state and prepared by the State Public Policy Group in Des Moines, Iowa, specified that the money for the proposed pilot program should be focused on high-need students. The report was commissioned as a response to the state legislation and provides recommendations for extended learning time models as well as state community input and feedback.

The report also called for grant recipients to choose one of three strategies to boost student achievement--all focused on extended learning. These include: offering additional academic activities before or after school for low-income students; providing summer instruction for students struggling with reading; or, lengthening the school day for middle-school students. Whichever strategy seems to be most effective could be replicated at the state level, according to the report.

Proponents of extended learning programs in the state, according to the Register, point to the proposal as evidence that support for out-of-school learning is growing in the state. This reflects growing national interest in increased learning time for students. For instance, The TIME (Time for Innovation Matters in Education) Collaborative, a multi-state effort to extend the learning day, recently announced its expansion as a second cohort of schools joined the effort.

Meanwhile, in Washington state, all middle and high schools are required by next fall to provide at least 1,080 hours of instruction, up from 1,000 previously, under a state mandate

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